ERIC GAY / AP Enlarge
CLEVELAND - The Cavaliers had missed so many shots, the law of averages had to be in their favor at the end.
One 3-pointer after another had clanked off their rim. At one point they missed 12 in succession. With 5.5 seconds left and the Cavs needing a 3 to tie in Game 3, they tried another.
LeBron James' shot from the top of the key and two feet behind the line went long, and the Cavs fell 75-72 to the Spurs. They're now in a seemingly insurmountable hole, down 3-0 in the NBA finals.
Bruce Bowen appeared to foul James on the play, and James argued with the official afterward as the buzzer finished sounding at Quicken Loans Arena. It wasn't long before he gave up, though, to soon start preparing for tomorrow's Game 4, to avoid being swept.
James scored a game-high 25, and pulled down eight rebounds to go along with seven assists. After the game he had no criticism of the no-call.
"[It was] incidental contact," James said. "It didn't affect my shot. I had a good look at it, I missed it."
The Spurs' big three were much quieter than last game, but Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili still did their damage. All scored in the final two minutes to keep the Spurs ahead.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas finally found his form, grabbing 18 rebounds to go along with 12 points. Drew Gooden and Sasha Pavlovic each added 13. But the Cavs shot 37 percent from the floor, and just 3-of-19 from
The last two minutes were some of the most stressful in Cavaliers history. First James hit two free throws to close the deficit to two. Duncan answered with two free throws, but James came back with a finger-roll with 1:22 left.
Parker seemed to drive a dagger with a 3-pointer, but Pavlovic knocked down a 3 with 48 seconds left. With the Cavs on defense, Anderson Varejao blocked Parker's layup. And with a chance to tie with 11 second left, Varejao lobbed up an underhanded shot that didn't touch rim.
Varejao had gotten the ball from James, and James said he expected to get the ball right back.
"He made a good move, he just overshot it," James said. "I definitely wanted a better look at it, but it was just miscommunication."
Ginobili made 3-of-4 free throws, and the Cavs set up their last shot. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said they talked about fouling in the two timeouts before the shot.
"He did make a stab at him and we talked about [fouling]," Popovich said.
At first it didn't look like the Cavs would get so close. With 10 minutes left Duncan scored his first points since the first quarter to put the Spurs up 10. The Cavs cut it back to five, but Michael Finley's 3 put the Spurs back up 10 with 6:37 to play.
Then the Spurs couldn't score, sometimes they couldn't shoot. They went on a five-minute scoring drought with several turnovers.
The third quarter was a defensive battle, but the Spurs pulled ahead at the end. The Cavs scored just 12 points in the period. Ilgauskas kept the Cavs in the game in the third. He had eight rebounds, four points, a steal and a blocked shot.
The Spurs were known for recent Game 3 hangovers, and the frenetic atmosphere at the Q might have had an initial effect on them, missing their first five free throws.
The Cavaliers fed off each others' energy in the first half, but at times it spilled over into trying to do too much. They had nine first-half turnovers.
James got his third foul of the game with 6:01 left in the first half on an offensive foul call. But 30 seconds later, Duncan picked up his third, so both were out for the remainder of the half.41.50436 -81.69046